Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

Some weeks it’s hard to find outside-the-box or just less-than-obvious stats to point out for why the Bucs have performed the way they have this season. Like Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter says, sometimes it’s as frustrating as accepting the fact that the players have to go out and do their jobs – there aren’t always analytics to dive into of players or coaches just not doing their jobs. But this week we have no shortage of statistics to highlight. This week we have almost too many. But that’s okay. I’m going to point them all out and give them the praise they deserve. You know why? Because the Bucs won, and when you accomplish the goals, touting them only comes naturally, even for those who observe them from afar.

Stat No. 1: Mike Evans’ 1,000 yards
This week Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fifth time in five years, his five years in the league. Of the players who have also started their careers with such consistency, the list is as long as two: A.J. Green and Randy Moss. With Evans’ fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season, he now ties Green, and is one short of Moss.

Evans would tell you himself that, while the accomplishment is cool, his own words stated, “I’m suppose to do that. I’m the No. 1 receiver.” Where Evans is right, especially considering how pass-heavy Tampa Bay’s offense has been since his arrival in 2014, there is a reason why they call it an honor to be in such company – because that’s what it is.

Bucs WR Mike Evans - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Evans often gets overlooked as one of the best receiver in the league. He’s not as quick as Antonio Brown, he’s not as athletic as Julio Jones, and he doesn’t make the spectacular catches on a regular basis like Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins. But to cut the list at just five guys, as we love to do in this “power ranking” age of sports fandom, does an injustice to many, especially Evans.

No matter how you slice it, no matter how you many select before him in a fantasy draft or Madden draft format, Evans is a talent that can impact any game he’s in.

Whether he’s in your Top 5 in wide receivers or not, he’s in a list of only three after his game this past Sunday against the 49ers. On that list, his place is not debatable, and with health on his side, his name might be at the top someday.

Stat No. 2: Jason Pierre-Paul’s 10.5 sacks
A lot more went into the double-digit sack drought than just the fact that no one had recorded double-digit sacks for the Buccaneers since 2005. It was the details of it that made it so hard to accept.

Anything that referenced the Bucs’ Super Bowl Era here since 2018 was a thorn in the side of Bucs fans. That was nearly 15 years ago, and the lack of a double-digit sacker, which hadn’t happened since Simeon Rice had 14 in 2005, was just a constant reminder of what Tampa Bay had and what it let go when things were still better than they ever have been since.

Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

It wasn’t just the fact that there hadn’t been a double-digit sacker, it was the fact that Rice was the last guy to do it. It was the fact that every time it was brought up, you had to mention his name, and you had to think of the glory days that seemed like a lifetime ago. You have to read tweets like the ones from Rice saying that he could still come back today and give the Bucs a better chance at the double-digit marker like he did last year – and you had to think about him being right because things were that bad.

As Jon Gruden’s name swirled around the coaching circle last year, the painful gap of the last time the Buccaneers had anything successful was once again placed before them. Anytime Gruden’s name was brought up, so was old success; so was the double-digit sack drought.

Thank goodness for Jason Pierre-Paul.

The man that played his college ball right in that very stadium years and years later became the man to exorcise the demon from out of it. After recording his 10.5 sack of the season against the 49ers, you could feel a weight lifted.

You could feel like, for the first time in a long time, maybe Tampa Bay could move on from a time that only brought them success through memories.

Stat No. 3: Cairo Santos’ 100 Percent
Speaking of weights being lifted, it has to feel like the biggest relief to finally have a kicker. And I know some of you might be reading this saying, “Trevor, it’s been two games, don’t jinx it!”

Bucs K Cairo Santos - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs K Cairo Santos – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Listen, forget the jinx. Make the kick. Have the mental fortitude and make the damn kick.

Cairo Santos does.

Santos said himself that the key to kicking in a new place is knocking those first couple kicks in and riding that momentum and confidence into becoming a team’s kicker. So far, as a Buccaneer, Santos is 8-for-8 on extra points and 2-for-2 on field goals. I’m not saying the guy is going to be perfect during his entire time in Tampa Bay, but damn, does it feel good to not think extra points are must-watch TV in the worst way anymore.

You don’t have to be afraid of a jinx. You can enjoy this one.

Stat No. 4: 2 takeaways
I remember where I was the last time the Bucs got a turnover. It was 1997, I was six years old. I had just gotten out of church with my parents and … okay, you know I’m kidding. But it sure felt like it had been ages, didn’t it?

This week the Bucs got not one, but two interceptions against the 49ers. These were the first two turnovers on defense since the beginning of the season in Week 3.

It was a relief to everyone. The players, the fans, the coaches, the GM, the owners, I’m sure they all were starting to think they had upset some sort of curse on the premises or something. But whatever happened, Ryan Smith can always hang his hat on the fact that he got the Tampa Bay defense off the schneid.

Let’s hope tasting one only makes them hungry for more.

Stat No. 5: 3 tackles for loss
Of course. Of course the week after I write about Vita Vea struggling, he has a little chat with Jason Licht and all of a sudden a fire is lit underneath him and he has the game of his career, to this point.

Bucs DT Vita Vea - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Vea ended the game against the 49ers with four tackles, including one sack and three tackles for loss. He also started that game, which was a call by the defensive staff to get him in there right off the bat.

Being in the starting rotation also allowed him to play in important situations with the top line like on the goal line. When the Bucs held the 49ers from scoring on the goal line in the third quarter, Vea was a big presence.

It appeared Vea was unchained that game. He wasn’t thinking about just how to re-direct a player or where to go or out-thinking his own talent like we had seen before. As I pointed out in previous weeks, Vea was getting penetration against offensive lines, he just didn’t do anything with it. On Sunday, he did, and he was another great story in a weekend full of stats that surely made Bucs fans smile.

Speaking of reason to smile, Tamp Bay’s franchise quarterback played pretty darn well, too. We go in-depth into the film on the next page.

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Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]

27 COMMENTS

  1. I had posted about Cario Santos before the man was even picked up by the Bucs. He was the best by far option out there for the Bucs to get midseason. He is doing exactly what “experts” predicted. He does not have a very strong leg – his injury a couple of years ago reduced his kickoffs. It is why San Francisco was able to return three kickoffs – he cannot make the endzone – let alone through the end zone.

    He also cannot really kick long field goals. The Bucs know this and they are limiting his kicks to around 40 yards or less. He is a very high percentage kicker still within 40 yards, but outside of that he does not really have the range. When he kicked a 41 yarder last Sunday, pay attention where the ball lands. Not in the net behind the uprights – on the ground behind the goalpost. His limit is probably about 42-43 yards. After that all bets are off if he has any chance to make it.

    Don’t get me wrong – I wanted the Bucs to get him. He is the best option out there. He will solve the consistency problem from closer range and should stay that way (baring injury) the rest of the year. It is a temporary solution – I have a feeling next year they will be looking again in the college ranks.

    With Winston, he had an amazing game where not playing a great team he did not put pressure on himself and he played a good game making good decision nearly all the time, including the sack. Not all his throws had good mechanics (across his body to Godwin in the middle of the field stands out) but fortunately, it did not hurt him as Godwin was not covered at all – and he had the arm strength to get it to him. I only hope when they start playing the NFC South again (starting next week) he minimizes the mistakes and gives them a chance to win. Otherwise next Monday we will be back where we started.

    Best stat? By far, Winston. He is the key at this point for the franchise to succeed going forward. He has to minimize mistakes going forward. I know many are going to pick Cario, and some will pick JPP, and some will pick Evans and they are all important. However for the future of the franchise, and possibly for Jason Licht is Winston.

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  2. Curses.
    Demons.
    What moronic concepts to even suggest.
    I think it was Coach Norm Van Brocklin who once said if he ever needed a brain transplant he would get a sportswriters, “because it had never been used.”
    How true.

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    • Obviously talking of curses and demons is just sportive. Take the stick out of your butt man

      Trev is probably one of the best sports writers in Tampa Bay and continuously puts out well thought out articles and actual film analysis, no need to be a d1ck and insult the guy.

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  3. Vita Vea’s breakout game on a win should probably be highlighted more in this piece. Glad Trevor mentions him with regards to the TFLs but this game could be a launching pad for our #1 pick! As many have pointed out, a slow start due to injuries and the growing frustrations of fans regarding who was our #1 pick have been an eyesore for reading but understandable. It would be amazing if the DL could step up and do more to close out the season!

    Gerald McCoy has had 4.5 sacks since coming back from injury too. JPP has been steady… can’t ask more from him…. or can we?? The dude’s a BEAST! Nassib? What an awesome in-season gem Licht found! Talk about seizing an opportunity… he sure has!

    As a unit, the defensive line really needed this game and I hope to see them wreaking havoc this Sunday against Cam and the Panthers! Maybe it’s Allan’s turn? Maybe Curry’s? Maybe Vea and McCoy do some serious damage? I’m excited for them to say the least!

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  4. “Winston won’t be able to stay that reserved against some of the better team the Bucs are about to face.” The 49ers defense was ranked tenth in the entire NFL when Winston faced them on Sunday or did you think Winston was playing against their offense.
    “That was one gutsy move,” Mother Goose to Maverick after he performed a tactic that won him a dogfight but one the rigid uptight, but hot flight instructor Kelly McGinnis chastised him about.
    Yes, normally you don’t want to see your QB throwing the ball against his body and the grain, but in this case you can clearly tell Winston has taken a long enough look at The Hump to tell coverage has broken down on his scramble and he is clearly standing there all by himself.
    If Winston had elected to run, everyone would be yelling that he didn’t throw to a wide open Hump.

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    • Winston is actually playing against their offense also. A great offense can put just as much pressure on an opposing QB if not more than a great defense. If your opponent is scoring every drive it will cause a lot of pressure on your QB to try and score every drive also.

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  5. Upbeat piece Trevor. The 49ers are stinky, reeling, and had just released Foster from the team the night before. The BUCS should have easly beaten this team at home, and they did. That’s good. Unfortunately the rest of their schedule is going to be grueling, and they are going to have to play a lot better to win any of those. It will force Winston to be uncomfortable, because the BUCS will likely be chasing points in every game. That’s the problem for the team & puts Winston in position to look bad as he’s pressing any and every opportunity to move the ball. Not a plug just a statement.

    The right guard position is killing us. We can crush the LT for his inconsistency but for heavens sake the right guard position is brutal.

    Vea was the bright spot. Dogged by fans & media for not living up to his pick position when some wanted to draft other players. He missed most of the preseason as a rookie, and played sparingly when he could return. A rookie thrown into the fire trying to figure it out. If last Sunday is an indication of what his future holds then he’s a very good pick by Licht, we’ll see.

    Evans & JPP were expected to produce, and thankfully they have.

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    • Here is the other piece Trevor. Regardless of who is running/coaching the team next year. Going into next year this team needs to address:
      RG – nobody
      LT – D Smith ???
      RT – D Dotson getting old
      CB – Grimes gone, Hargreaves can’t stay healthy & a nickle, Stewart not cutting mustard
      S – Some one other than Conte & Whitehead
      DT – McCoy is short term
      DE – Another pass rusher
      K – Santos has no leg, but at least makes PAT’s

      Just not enough draft capital in 1 year to address all these glaring issues!!!

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      • How about RG – D Smith? He’s a road grader, but not an OT. Find an OT in the draft.
        MJ Stewart may be a good Safety candidate.

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  6. My son calls Santos “Automaticos” 🙂

    I’ll take an accurate kicker with an average leg over a strong kicker with below-average accuracy. With our offense, we can get within Automaticos’ range. As we’ve learned the last few years, kicking through the uprights is far more important than kicking through the end zone.

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  7. Great breakdown as always trevor. Of all the stats for the day, vite vea impressed me the most with Jameis a close second. I knew jameis was capable of these things ,we’ve seen it before. He just has to do it consistently. And I dont want to hear the we played San Francisco crap. They had a top 10 defense.
    I was incredibly impressed with vea as he was aggressive and he knew where he was going. He got off blocks and was mauling people. I’d love to admit I was wrong about this guy if he keeps this up. Some of us have that ability on this site to admit we are wrong, others clearly dont.
    Go get an this week vita, well need you this week to snack scam newton around a bit.
    Mike Evans is a top 5 wideout, that cant be argued, his numbers tell that. As for jpp , what a steal for a 3rd rounder. I’m also super stocked at nassibs play, good pick up there licht. Now let’s go beat the breaks off Carolina and that’ll feel great!

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  8. Glad to see Vita V finally break out. What most people are forgetting is he not only missed training camp and the first few weeks, but he also missed all the OTAs because of the Pac-12 quarter system. He was a couple weeks behind the day training camp started.

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  9. My only disagreement with your article is that Winston’s pass to Mike Evans was caught a good 3-4 away from the sidelines and it was only Evans not being aware of where he was on the field that caused him to lose his balance and go out of bounds.

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    • I would have to disagree with you. Evans is running a streak but he is 6-7 yards in from the side line. The throw is off causing him to have to run toward the side line to catch it and his momentum takes him out of bounds. Had the ball been thrown 5-7 yards in from the sideline Evans could have caught it in stride and scored. I’m not trying to knock Winston but it definitely wasn’t Evans fault. He was running a streak straight down the field and the throw lead him toward the side line. Had he been running up the sideline it would have been a perfect throw but because he was 5-7 yards in the throw causes him to have to change his direction and run toward the sideline and out of bonds after the catch. It still was a good throw though.

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  10. Good article Trevor.
    My favorite one was the goal line defense; 1st down and inches to go. Stopping 49er’s and forcing them to kick the field goal was team building big time. The whole team confidence was lifted including the coaches!

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  11. Here is a stat I like a lot: Tampa’s defense has improved since firing defensive coordinator Mike Smith (34.6 points per game with Smith vs. 21.7 without him).

    Who says the coach does not make the plays? In this case, the coach is not making the plays – but the play calling is obviously making a difference.

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    • Agree. I sincerely believe that if Mike Smith was coaching last Sunday’s game, Mullens would’ve looked a lot better against us…like an MVP QB. Happened too many times during Mike Smith’s tenure to think otherwise.

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  12. Mike Evans 1,000 & Double digit sack drought broke!

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  13. Great Cover 3 Trevor.
    My favorite? Vea getting 4 tackles and 3 for losses and a Sack.

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  14. JayBuc52, I agree with your assessment on the long pass to Winston. I was at the game on the sideline where he caught the ball and you could almost tell that was what he was thinking too.
    Gee whiz Johnathon Goddfellow, it’s a shame you can’t express yourself a little more civilly or didn’t you get past seventh grade.
    For the last three or four weeks I have been reading about multiples curses and now today I had to read about demons.
    It’s not only getting a little old it’s also unoriginal.
    You want to talk to me about whether or not a player isn’t concentrating or isn’t physically talented enough to do his job and give me the reasons I am all ears.
    But there’s to many stupid people out there that regurgitate nonsense like that because they think they are reading it from a reputable source.
    Talking about curses and demons doesn’t make you very reputable in my book.
    And if Trevor doesn’t have thick enough skin to handle a critique like that, maybe he should run for President like the thin skinned bozo we have in the White House right now.

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  15. So JPP, Santos, Vea and the takeaways are the story here…all three of those are substantial building blocks towards the future. Jameis is a complete dumpster fire, always will be. And receivers, even as good as Mike aren’t that imperative to win. As having a dominant No.1 wideout hasn’t been a staple of championship teams.

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    • Your football IQ is ZERO. And you are likely blind. Go somewhere else with that dribble!

      Mike Evans can make a “dumpster fire” of a QB look good and Winston would get snapped up by 15 other Teams if he hit free agency. You just made yourself look foolish with those statements.

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      • snapped up as aback up qb …maybe !

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  16. Four*

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  17. Some of these Bucs fans remind me of the old proverb: the prophet is never well received in his hometown. Bucs fans expect JW to be Brees or Brady and he is certainly not there…yet. Nor is he Jamarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf- (even Leaf got other chances.) No one can deny the talent and certainly other teams are well aware of it. All of those Bucs fans who want JW cut are not looking at the situation objectively. 15 teams would snap him up? At least. Think about it, if he is cut his salary would be a lot less and many teams would be willing to take a chance on him in hopes that “their” coach could get the most out of him. A savy coach like Belichik is just waiting for the Bucs to cut Winston so he can either get Brady’s replacement or show just enough of him to steal a draft pick like he did for Garopollo. The Steelers might do the same. Or the Giants. Or the Redskins…it would be easier to make a list of teams that would have no interest.

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  18. A bomb, try Jacksonville. They r paying their Bortles 18 million. How do you think Winston would do with a functioning NFL defense.

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  19. The Bucs need to stop deferring to start games so at least Jameis can start calm and just take what the defense gives him and score first. That pumps up the crowd which helps the Defense stop the opponents. That is the best way to keep Jameis error free. Vea needs to start with JPP, McCoy, and Nassib. The Panthers have lost three games straight so they are not invincible.

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